It is surprising how much Kunchacko d’Udaya dared to choose a youngster who only had an old film, as the hero of his new film Visappinte Vili in 1952. And that too by relegating Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair to the second echelon even though he had just emerged as the first superstar of the Malayalam industry after his Jeevitha nauka became the first runaway hit in Malayalam just over a year ago. But during filming, Thikkurissi took a liking to the 26-year-old newcomer and advised him to change his rustic name – Abdul Khader – which did not suit a young hero. In addition, it was also an “obviously Muslim” name. It was not easy for holders of Muslim names to succeed in cinema during this time, even in Malayalam despite its tradition of religious harmony. Despite the presence of many Muslim titans in the Hindi industry, Yusuf Khan had become Dilip Kumar, Mumtaz Jehan became Madhubala and Mahjabeen Bano as Meena Kumari. Thikkurissi therefore renamed Abdul Khader with a fashionable and filmic name – Prem Nazir. It didn’t sound too Muslim either. The re-baptism turned out to be auspicious because Visappinte Vili was a big hit and Prem Nazir went on to become Malayalam’s all-time superstar with even a Guinness Record for playing the hero in around 700 films. The trend for Muslim actors to change their names continued for many years to come, with Abdul Rehman becoming Sudheer or even Mammootty renamed Sajin by director PG Viswambharan in 1981. Sajin quickly became a sensation and when he was star enough to dictate conditions to industry, he took his real name, quite rustic and very Muslim. Today Mammootty reigns on screens even after crossing 70 years. Bollywood also changed in due course despite its majority instincts, with the Three Khans reigning supreme. And Malayalam’s new generation cinema today is practically run by immensely talented Muslim actors, directors and technicians.
It’s not just the story of Malayalam cinema. But an ongoing saga of a renaissance sweeping through almost every sector of Malayali life over the past 2-3 decades. Whether it is education, business, art, media or sport, the Muslim community that once lagged behind in all of these areas is now leading them. The main drivers of this economic and educational advance are closely linked; Gulf migration and the unprecedented uptake of modern education, especially by women. Malabar’s once lagging progress also played a major role in the upsurge. Certainly, times have changed considerably since the Sastra Sahitya Parishad (2006) study which found that Muslims lagged behind in terms of income, employment, education and land ownership. Studies show that the increase in family income and the “general awareness” resulting from Gulf migration have triggered upward educational mobility of Muslim women.
While blatant communitarians, archbishops, or even many ordinary people – bitten to varying degrees by the global virus of Islamophobia – link Muslims to all that is bad – terror, narcotics, smuggling, sex crimes , population explosion or even false love – they willy-nilly turn a blind eye to this real talent boom taking place in the community.
Despite the efforts of reformers like Makthi Thangal from the 19th century onwards to ask Muslims to embrace modern education, it has remained largely ‘haraam’ until now for the community, gripped by clerics. . Women have even been denied basic education. But look at what’s going on now. In the results of the Union Civil Service Examination (2020) announced yesterday, the 63rd place was won by Dheenah Dastageer, a Muslim woman from Kerala. In 2019, the only Muslim candidate in the top 100 was Safna Nazaruddeen from Thiruvananthapuram. Ranked 45, Safna, the daughter of a retired police inspector, passed the country’s most prestigious exam on her first attempt and is now a collector’s assistant at Malappuram. Of the 42 Muslims who passed the 2019 exams, four were from Kerala. Dr Adeela Abdulla, Director of the Department of Women’s and Children’s Development, was the first Muslim woman from Malabar to join IAS in 2012.
In NEET 2020, six Muslims from across India were among the best, including three from Kerala. Among them, S. Ayesha from Koyilandy, ranked 12th, came first in Kerala with 99.9 percentiles. In the JEE-A, 2020 the best of Kerala was Ibrahim Suhail Harris from Kasargode. In the Kerala Engineering Entrance Tests, two friends -Niaz Mon (3rd) and Taslin Basil (7th) – from the same village of Malappuram – were in the top ten. This year, Muslim students in Kerala have won some of the highest international scholarships in the world. More importantly, most of these young people come from ordinary families and have studied in ordinary schools.
Justice Sachar Committee (2006) found that Muslims in Kerala were better off in areas such as education and employment than in other states. According to a nationwide study of minorities by the Center for Policy Analysis (2018), Muslims were economically and educationally better in Kerala, although their rate of population growth was higher than in other communities. . A study by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (2015) showed that the enrollment of Muslims in Kerala was five times the national average in primary and upper secondary classes and three times in secondary and upper secondary classes.
This resurgence owes much to the efforts of various community organizations – including the most orthodox among them – to encourage higher education among members, including women. They have set up centers to guide students through entrance exams like JEE-A, CAT, GATE, etc., UPSC tests, to join top universities like JNU, DU, AMU, etc. (It also allowed the students to stay in their fold). This has increased the number of Muslim registrations at these centers in recent years, although it is still lower than others.
Most spectacular in this resurgence has been the march of Muslim women. Today they outnumber men in most colleges, and many Muslim directorates run women’s colleges. According to a study by U. Muhammed (2007), in the list of Muslim SSLC rank holders over the past 15 years, the top three were women. In most of the entrance exams to vocational courses, Muslim girls outperform boys. Of those who qualify for Islamic Development Bank scholarships, more than 40% are girls. According to Muhammed, today Muslim women in Kerala openly discuss their issues in an uninhibited public forum and analyze social issues from their own perspective.
It has also started to worry some Orthodox elements who complain that many men are forced to remain single because girls demand wives with equal education levels. The Muslim League’s first-ever decision in a quarter of a century to field a woman candidate in the last legislative elections, the recent Haritha women’s revolt and its suppression by the League’s leaders are also signs of unrest within the League. community.
In business, too, Muslims are now more of the frontrunner than ever. Malayali Muslims are the wealthiest Indian businessmen in the Gulf region. Gulf migration has benefited Muslims not only economically and educationally, but also brought about fundamental changes in their outlook. According to academics Filippo Osella and Caroline Osella, Kerala Gulf-based businessmen are at the forefront of India’s post-liberalization economy. “Among Muslims in Kerala, the Gulf represents the successful blend of Islam with advanced technologies and modern business practices. It demonstrates that scientific or technological knowledge does not need to be at odds with Islam but can be harnessed to generate wealth and for the well-being of Muslims and strengthen Islam. Regardless of the individual experiences of migrants, Dubai’s skyscrapers, Kuwait’s sprawling oil refineries, and opulent Riyadh neighborhoods represent a world in which Muslims are both wealthy and confident, in stark contrast to the situation of many Muslims in India.
The current hostility of the Catholic Church towards Muslims goes beyond emotional symbols like Love Jihad and Narco Jihad. In addition to global and national causes, it stems from fundamental changes that have taken place over the past decades in society’s power equations. Christians who have traditionally enjoyed preeminence in areas such as education, industry, etc. are contested by the resurgent Muslim community. There has also been a setback in recent times for areas dominated by Christians like plantations etc. starts by 2050. Although once seen as the result of the progressive outlook of Christians, the fall in population has alarmed the Catholic Church, which openly encourages families to have more children by offering them financial incentives. The situation is also exacerbated by growing sectarianism and intolerance within all communities, religiosity, consumerism, etc.